MullenLowe Parts With Staff at 3 Offices Following USAA Publicis Consolidation

By Patrick Coffee 

The Boston, Winston-Salem and San Antonio offices of MullenLowe went through a round of layoffs this week related to the loss of the USAA account late last year.

An agency spokesperson confirmed the changes but declined to provide more details today.

This news effectively marks the last wave of staffing moves stemming from 2016’s “Ghetto Day” controversy at Campbell Ewald. Shortly after that story broke almost exactly one year ago, USAA dropped C-E as its agency of record after nearly 8 years and later announced that MullenLowe would handle its business.

The company, however, had already issued an RFP, meaning that MullenLowe effectively served as an interim partner in retaining the account for parent company IPG. It’s not clear whether they participated in the pitch that eventually led USAA to consolidate its business with a Publicis Groupe “Power of One” umbrella unit in October, but several parties told us at the time that a group of C-E employees effectively moved over to a MullenLowe location in San Antonio to hold the same positions working on the same account.

In announcing the Publicis decision, a USAA spokesperson cited “the shift to a single-supplier model” and noted that the win included a non-binding promise “to hire 30 percent of new employees on the account from diverse communities.”

MullenLowe continued handling the business across the three aforementioned offices until last week, which is why the organization had to part ways with staff yesterday. It’s not clear at this time how many individuals were involved; our tipsters have offered varying totals for the Boston and North Carolina offices, and we hear that all departments were affected.

USAA was a significant piece of business as the organization spent $146 million on marketing in 2015.

Overall, the MullenLowe organization grew in 2016 despite ending its relationships with MassMutual (which went to Johannes Leonardo) and Indeed. We also hear that MullenLowe, which just won media agency of record duties for Chipotle, was one of several shops pitching the creative portion of the business along with Wieden + Kennedy, GSD&M, mono and the ultimate winner, VB&P.